4 For Your Joy
FOR YOUR JOY
Published by Desiring God
© 2005 Desiring God
International Standard Book Number: 0-9773286-0-0
Edited for Desiring God
Cover design by Edd Blott
All scripture quotations are taken from:
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway
Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights
Selections from The Passion of Jesus Christ by John Piper, © 2004, used
by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News
Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Why Did Jesus Have to Die? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
How Can God Love Me? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
What If I Don’t Love God? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
How Can I Love a God Who Allows so Much Evil? . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Why Is It All About God? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
What Does All This Mean for Me? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
What Should I Do? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
Recommended Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
About Desiring God . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
About the Whatever-You-Can-Afford Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
About the Author . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
Table of Contents
TWO thousand years ago, Jesus and his friends
were having a conversation about the rumor mill
of popular opinion. “Who do people say the Son of
Man is?” he asked them. They responded by listing
some common answers they had heard. But then
Jesus changed the stakes. Turning from the informational
to the personal, he looked them in the eye
and asked: “But who do you say that I am?”
It’s easy to answer the what-are-others-saying
question. But there comes a point when we must
face Jesus’ question ourselves. Who do we say that
The most common answer is that Jesus was
a great moral teacher—an exemplary teacher and
compassionate sage. But C. S. Lewis—the British
author who wrote The Lion, the Witch, and the
Wardrobe—insisted that such reductions be off the
I am trying here to prevent anyone
saying the really foolish thing that
people often say about Him: “I’m ready
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to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher,
but I don’t accept His claim to be God.”
That is the one thing we must not say. A
man who was merely a man and said the
sort of things Jesus said would not be
a great moral teacher. He would either
be a lunatic—on the level with the man
who says he is a poached egg—or else
he would be the Devil of Hell. You
must make your choice. Either this man
was, and is, the Son of God: or else a
madman or something worse. You can
shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at
Him and kill Him as a demon; or you
can fall at His feet and call Him Lord
and God. But let us not come with any
patronizing nonsense about His being a
great human teacher. He has not left that
open to us. He did not intend to.
This question—who do you say that he is?—
is the most important question you can ask and answer.
In this book John Piper answers some of the
most common and important questions about Jesus:
who he is, why he came, what he accomplished—
and why we should care.
If you’ve asked some of these same questions
and you’re looking for some answers—based not
on our own thoughts and theories but upon God’s
Word—we invite you to join us. For your joy.
10 For Your Joy
God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation by
his blood, to be received by faith. This was to
show God’s righteousness, because in his divine
forbearance he had passed over former sins.
In this is love, not that we have loved God but
that he loved us and sent his Son to be the
propitiation for our sins.
I John 4:10
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law
by becoming a curse for us.
Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
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IF God were not just, there would be no demand
for his Son to suffer and die. And if God were not
loving, there would be no willingness for his Son to
suffer and die. But God is just and loving. Therefore
his love is willing to meet the demands of his
His law demanded, “You shall love the LORD
your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). But
we have all loved other things more. This is what
sin is—dishonoring God by preferring other things
over him, and acting on those preferences. Therefore,
the Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short
of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We glorify
what we enjoy most. And it isn’t God.
Therefore sin is not small, because it is not
against a small Sovereign. The seriousness of an
insult rises with the dignity of the one insulted.
The Creator of the universe is infinitely worthy of
respect and admiration and loyalty. Therefore,
failure to love him is not trivial—it is treason. It
defames God and destroys human happiness.
Since God is just, he does not sweep these
crimes under the rug of the universe. He feels a
Why Did Jesus Have to Die? 13
holy wrath against them. They deserve to be punished,
and he has made this clear: “For the wages
of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). “The soul who sins
shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4).
There is a holy curse hanging over all sin. Not
to punish would be unjust. The demeaning of God
would be upheld. A lie would reign at the core of
reality. Therefore, God says, “Cursed be everyone
who does not abide by all things written in the Book
of the Law, and do them” (Galatians 3:10; Deuteronomy
But the love of God does not rest with the
curse that hangs over all sinful humanity. He is not
content to show wrath, no matter how holy it is.
Therefore he sends his own Son to absorb his wrath
and bear the curse for all who trust him. “Christ
redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming
a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).
This is the meaning of the word “propitiation”
in the texts quoted on page 10. It refers to the
removal of God’s wrath by providing a substitute.
The substitute is provided by God himself. The substitute,
Jesus Christ, does not just cancel the wrath;
he absorbs it and diverts it from us to himself. God’s
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wrath is just, and it was spent, not withdrawn.
Let us not trifle with God or trivialize his love.
We will never stand in awe of being loved by God
until we reckon with the seriousness of our sin and
the justice of his wrath against us. But when, by
grace, we waken to our unworthiness, then we may
look at the suffering and death of Christ and say, “In
this is love, not that we have loved God but that he
loved us and sent his Son to be the [wrath-absorbing]
propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
In him we have redemption through his blood,
the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to
the riches of his grace.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his
only Son, that whoever believes in him should
not perish but have eternal life.
One will scarcely die for a righteous person—
though perhaps for a good person one would
dare even to die—but God shows his love for us
in that while we were still sinners, Christ died
How Can God Love Me?
How Can God Love Me?
16 For Your Joy
THE measure of God’s love for us is shown by two
things. One is the degree of his sacrifice in saving us
from the penalty of our sin. The other is the degree
of unworthiness that we had when he saved us.
We can hear the measure of his sacrifice in the
words, “He gave his only son” (John 3:16). We also
hear it in the word “Christ.” This is a name based
on the Greek title Christos, or “Anointed One,” or
“Messiah.” It is a term of great dignity. The Messiah
was to be the king of Israel. He would conquer
the Romans and bring peace and security to Israel.
In sum, then, the person that God sent to save sinners
was his own divine Son, his only Son, and the
Anointed king of Israel—indeed the king of the
world (Isaiah 9:6-7).
When we add to this consideration the horrific
death by crucifixion that Christ endured, it
becomes clear that the sacrifice the Father and the
Son made was indescribably great—even infinite,
when you consider the distance between the divine
and the human. But God chose to make this sacrifice
to save us.
The measure of his love for us increases still
more when we consider our unworthiness. “Perhaps
How Can God Love Me? 17
for a good person one would dare even to die—but
God shows his love for us in that while we were
still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8). We
deserved divine punishment, not divine sacrifice.
I have heard it said, “God didn’t die for frogs.
So he was responding to our value as humans.”
This turns grace on its head. We are worse off than
frogs. They have not sinned. They have not rebelled
and treated God with the contempt of being inconsequential
in our lives. God did not have to die for
frogs. They aren’t bad enough. We are. Our debt is
so great only divine sacrifice can pay it.
There is only one explanation for God’s sacrifice
for us. It is not us. It is “the riches of his grace”
(Ephesians 1:7). It is all free. It is not a response to
our worth. It is the overflow of his infinite worth.
In fact, that is what divine love is in the end: a passion
to enthrall undeserving sinners, at great cost,
with what will make us supremely happy forever,
namely, his infinite beauty.
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Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life;
whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life,
but the wrath of God remains on him.
These will go away into eternal punishment, but
the righteous into eternal life.
They will suffer the punishment of eternal
destruction, away from the presence of the Lord
and from the glory of his might.
II Thessalonians 1:9
What If I Don’t Love God?
What If I Don’t Love God?
20 For Your Joy
IN our happiest times we do not want to die. The
wish for death rises only when our suffering seems
unbearable. What we really want in those times is
not death, but relief. We would love for the good
times to come again. We would like the pain to go
away. We would like to have our loved one back
from the grave. We want life and happiness.
We are kidding ourselves when we romanticize
death as the climax of a life well lived. It is an
enemy. It cuts us off from all the wonderful pleasures
of this world. We call death sweet names only
as the lesser of evils. The executioner that delivers
the coup de grace in our suffering is not the fulfillment
of longing, but the end of hope. The longing
of the human heart is to live and to be happy.
God made us that way. “He has put eternity
into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We are created
in God’s image, and God loves life and lives
forever. We were made to live forever. And we will.
The opposite of eternal life is not annihilation. It is
hell. Jesus spoke of it more than anybody, and he
made plain that rejecting the eternal life he offered
would result not in obliteration, but in the misery
of God’s wrath: “Whoever believes in the Son has
What If I Don’t Love God? 21
eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall
not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him”
And it remains forever. Jesus said, “These
will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous
into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). It is an
unspeakable reality that shows the infinite evil of
treating God with indifference or contempt. So Jesus
warns, “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out.
It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with
one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell,
‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not
quenched’” (Mark 9:47-48).
So eternal life is not merely the extension of
this life with its mix of pain and pleasure. As hell
is the worst outcome of this life, so “eternal life” is
the best. It is supreme and ever-increasing happiness
where all sin and all sadness will be gone. All
that is evil and harmful in this fallen creation will
be removed. All that is good—all that will bring
true and lasting happiness—will be preserved and
purified and intensified.
We will be changed so that we are capable of
dimensions of happiness that were inconceivable to
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us in this life. “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined . . . God has prepared
for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
It is true every moment of life, now and always:
for those who trust Christ the best is yet to come.
We will see the all-satisfying glory of God. “This is
eternal life, that they know you the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
For this Christ suffered and died. How shall we not
embrace him as our treasure and live?
How Can I Love a God Who Allows so Much Evil? 23
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God
meant it for good.
In this city there were gathered together against
your holy servant Jesus . . .both Herod and
Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the
peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and
your plan had predestined to take place.
The secret things belong to the Lord our God.
How Can I Love a God Who Allows
so Much Evil?
24 For Your Joy
THE most profound thing we can say about suffering
and evil is that, in Jesus Christ, God entered
into it and turned it for good. The origin of evil is
shrouded in mystery. “Free will” is just a name for
the mystery. It doesn’t explain why a perfect creature
chose to sin. Another name for the mystery is
“the sovereignty of God.” As true and biblical as it
is, this too leaves questions unanswered. The Bible
does not take us as far as we might like to go. Rather
it says, “The secret things belong to . . . God”
The heart of the Bible and the heart of Christianity
is not an explanation of where evil came
from, but a demonstration of how God enters into
it and turns it for the very opposite—everlasting
righteousness and joy. There were pointers in the
Scriptures all along the way that it would be like
this for the Messiah. Joseph, the son of Jacob, was
sold into slavery in Egypt. He seemed abandoned
for 17 years. But God was in it and made him ruler
in Egypt, so that in a great famine he could save the
very ones who sold him. The story is summed up
in a word from Joseph to his brothers: “As for you,
you meant evil against me, but God meant it for
How Can I Love a God Who Allows so Much Evil? 25
good” (Genesis 50:20). A foreshadowing of Jesus
Christ, forsaken in order to save.
Or consider Christ’s ancestry. Once God was
the only king in Israel. But the people rebelled and
asked for a human king: “No! But there shall be a
king over us” (1 Samuel 8:19). Later they confessed,
“We have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for
ourselves a king” (1 Samuel 12:19). But God was
in it. From the line of these kings he brought Christ
into the world. The sinless Savior had his origin in
sin as he came to save sinners.
But the most astonishing thing is that evil and
suffering were Christ’s appointed way of victory
over evil and suffering. Every act of treachery and
brutality against Jesus was sinful and evil. But God
was in it. The Bible says, “Jesus [was] delivered up
[to death] according to the definite plan and foreknowledge
of God” (Acts 2:23). The lash on his
back, the thorns on his head, the spit on his cheek,
the bruises on his face, the nails in his hands, the
spear in his side, the scorn of rulers, the betrayal
of his friend, the desertion by his disciples—these
were all the result of sin, and all designed by God to
destroy the power of sin. “Herod and Pontius Pilate,
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along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,
[did] whatever your hand and your plan had predestined
to take place” (Acts 4:27-28).
There is no greater sin than to hate and kill the
Son of God. There was no greater suffering nor any
greater innocence than the suffering and innocence
of Christ. Yet God was in it all. “It was the will
of the Lord to crush him” (Isaiah 53:10). His aim,
through evil and suffering, was to destroy evil and
suffering. “With his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah
53:5). Is not then the suffering of Jesus Christ meant
by God to show the world that there is no sin and
no evil too great that God, in Christ, cannot bring
from it everlasting righteousness and joy? The very
suffering that we caused became the hope of our
salvation. “Father, forgive them, for they know not
what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Why Is It All About God? 27
Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous
for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to
I Peter 3:18
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far
off have been brought near by the blood of
I will go to the altar of God, to God my
Why Is It All About God?
28 For Your Joy
WHEN all is said and done, God is the gospel.
Gospel means “good news.” Christianity is not first
theology, but news. It is like the prisoners of war
hearing by hidden radio that the allies have landed
and rescue is only a matter of time. The guards
wonder why all the rejoicing.
But what is the ultimate good in the good
news? It all ends in one thing: God himself. All the
words of the gospel lead to him, or they are not gospel.
For example, “salvation” is not good news if
it only saves from hell and not for God. “Forgiveness”
is not good news if it only gives relief from
guilt and doesn’t open the way to God. “Justification”
is not good news if it only makes us legally
acceptable to God, but doesn’t bring fellowship
with God. “Redemption” is not good news if it only
liberates us from bondage, but doesn’t bring us to
God. “Adoption” is not good news if it only puts us
in the Father’s family but not in his arms.
This is crucial. Many people seem to embrace
the good news without embracing God. There
is no sure evidence that we have a new heart just
because we want to escape hell. That’s a perfectly
natural desire, not a supernatural one. It doesn’t
Why Is It All About God? 29
take a new heart to want the psychological relief
of forgiveness, or the removal of God’s wrath, or
the inheritance of God’s world. All these things are
understandable without any spiritual change. You
don’t need to be born again to want these things.
The devils want them.
It is not wrong to want them. Indeed it is folly
not to. But the evidence that we have been changed
is that we want these things because they bring us
to the enjoyment of God. This is the greatest thing
Christ died for. “Christ also suffered once for sins,
the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might
bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
Why is this the essence of the good news?
Because we were made to experience full and lasting
happiness from seeing and savoring the glory of
God. If our best joy comes from something less, we
are idolaters and God is dishonored. He created us
in such a way that his glory is displayed through our
joy in it. The gospel of Christ is the good news that
at the cost of his Son’s life, God has done everything
necessary to enthrall us with what will make
us eternally and ever-increasingly happy, namely,
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Long before Christ came, God revealed himself
as the source of full and lasting pleasure. “You
make known to me the path of life; in your presence
there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures
forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). Then he sent
Christ to suffer “that he might bring us to God.”
This means he sent Christ to bring us to the deepest,
longest joy a human can have. Hear then the
invitation: Turn from “the fleeting pleasures of sin”
(Hebrews 11:25) and come to “pleasures forevermore.”
Come to Christ.
What Does All This Mean for Me? 31
I write these things to you who believe in the
name of the Son of God that you may know that
you have eternal life.
I John 5:13
Whoever hears my word and believes him who
sent me has eternal life. He does not come into
judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins
may be wiped out.
Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for
the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to
What Does All This Mean for Me?
32 For Your Joy
God created us for his glory.
Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the
ends of the earth,...whom I created for my glory.
God made us to magnify his greatness—the way
telescopes magnify stars. He created us to put his
goodness and truth and beauty and wisdom and
justice on display. The greatest display of God’s
glory comes from deep delight in all that he is. This
means that God gets the praise and we get the pleasure.
God created us so that he is most glorified in
us when we are most satisfied in him.
Every human should live for God’s glory.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do
it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31
If God made us for his glory, it is clear that we
should live for his glory. Our duty comes from his
design. So our first obligation is to show God’s value
by being satisfied with all that he is for us. This
is the essence of loving God (Matthew 22:37) and
trusting him (1 John 5:3-4) and being thankful to
him (Psalm 100:2-4) It is the root of all true obedience,
especially loving others (Colossians 1:4-5).
What Does All This Mean for Me? 33
All of us have failed to glorify God as we
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
What does it mean to “fall short of the glory of
God”? It means that none of us has trusted and treasured
God the way we should. We have not been
satisfied with his greatness and walked in his ways.
We have sought our satisfaction in other things, and
treated them as more valuable than God, which is
the essence of idolatry (Romans 1:21-23). Since
sin came into the world we have all been deeply
resistant to having God as our all-satisfying treasure
(Ephesians 2:3). This is an appalling offense to
the greatness of God (Jeremiah 2:12-13).
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All of us are subject to God’s just
The wages of sin is death...
We have all belittled the glory of God. How? By
preferring other things above him. By our ingratitude,
distrust and disobedience. So God is just in
shutting us out from the enjoyment of his glory forever.
“They will suffer the punishment of eternal
destruction and exclusion from the presence of the
Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians
The word “hell” is used in the New Testament
twelve times—eleven times by Jesus himself. It is
not a myth created by dismal and angry preachers.
It is a solemn warning from the Son of God who
died to deliver sinners from its curse. We ignore it
at great risk.
If the Bible stopped here in its analysis of the
human condition, we would be doomed to a hopeless
future. However, this is not where it stops...
What Does All This Mean for Me? 35
God sent his only son Jesus to provide eternal
life and joy.
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners...
1 Timothy 1:15
The good news is that Christ died for sinners like
us. And he rose physically from the dead to validate
the saving power of his death and to open the gates
of eternal life and joy (1 Corinthians 15:20). This
means God can acquit guilty sinners and still be just
(Romans 3:25-26). “For Christ died for sins once
for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring
us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Coming home to God is
where all deep and lasting satisfaction is found.
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The benefits purchased by the death of Christ
belong to those who repent and trust him.
Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.
“Repent” means to turn from all the deceitful promises
of sin. “Faith” means being satisfied with all
that God promises to be for us in Jesus. “He who
believes in me,” Jesus says, “shall never thirst”
(John 6:35). We do not earn our salvation. We cannot
merit it (Romans 4:4-5). It is by grace through
faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is a free gift (Romans
3:24). We will have it if we cherish it above all
things (Matthew 13:44). When we do that, God’s
aim in creation is accomplished: He is glorified in
us and we are satisfied in him—forever.
What Should I Do? 37
A man ran up and knelt before [Jesus] and
asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to
inherit eternal life?”
Trembling with fear he fell down before Paul
and Silas . . . and said, “Sirs, what must I do to
be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord
Jesus, and you will be saved.”
What Should I Do?
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• Turn from the deceitful promises of sin.
• Call upon Jesus to save you from guilt and punishment
and bondage. “All who call upon the name
of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).
• Start banking your hope on all that God is for you
• Break the power of sin’s promises by faith in the
superior satisfaction of God’s promises.
• Begin reading the Bible to find his precious and
very great promises, which can set you free (2 Peter
• Find a Bible-believing church and begin to worship
and grow together with other people who treasure
Christ above all things (Philippians 3:7).
What Should I Do? 39
Did you know that God commands you to be
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the
desires of your heart.
The best news in the world is that there is no conflict
between your greatest possible happiness and
God’s perfect holiness. Being satisfied with all that
God is for you in Jesus magnifies him as the greatest
treasure and brings you more joy—eternal, infinite
joy—than any other delight ever could.
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You make known to me the path of life; in
your presence there is fullness of joy; at your
right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Recommended Reading from John Piper
The Passion of Jesus Christ
Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ
Don’t Waste Your Life
When I Don’t Desire God
Taste and See
God Is the Gospel
For a complete list of available titles, please visit
Crossway Books, a ministry of Good News Publishers, graciously
allowed the use, in this booklet, of selections from The Passion of
Jesus Christ by John Piper. Please visit them at www.crossway.com.
42 For Your Joy
44 For Your Joy
Desiring God exists to spread a passion for the supremacy of God
in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. We exist
for your joy, because God is most glorified in us when we are most
satisfied in him. Please visit our website for hundreds of free and
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46 For Your Joy
John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist
Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew up in Greenville, South
Carolina, and studied at Wheaton College, where he first sensed
God’s call to enter the ministry. He went on to earn degrees from
Fuller Theological Seminary (B.D.) and the University of Munich
(D.theol.). For six years he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel College
in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1980 accepted the call to serve as
pastor at Bethlehem. He is the author of numerous books and his
preaching is featured on the daily radio program Desiring God. He
and his wife Noël have four sons, one daughter, and an increasing
number of grandchildren.